"What shall I do with this absurdity:
Decrepit age that has been tied to me?"
" William Butler Yeats
So I'm no spring chicken. I didn't just stumble into adulthood, register to vote, apply for my first job or settle into a career. My first child was born the year John F. Kennedy was assassinated, my oldest grandchild is 28, and no one at the supermarket asks if I qualify for the senior discount anymore. But does that mean everyone and his entrepreneurial brother knows how old I am?
I'll run out of space long before I exhaust my recent snail and electronic mail collection of products available for the aged and infirm, but I'd still like to know: How can all these people assume I've entered the age of antiquity and, thus, become a prime market for their aids and accouterments to relieve symptoms of the poet's "decrepit age?"
For example, do you know how generous those hearing aid companies are? I didn't until I began receiving promises of a free Otoscope (wax build-up) Exam, free dinners, "$800 off a new set of advanced hearing instruments," or an absolutely free three-day resort vacation "just for coming by." Even though " in spite of my "decrepit age" " my hearing is about as normal as it ever was, I was tempted to "come by" just to take advantage of all those freebies.
And, oh, my aching back " which hasn't given me much trouble since I started a regular swimming regimen a dozen years ago " if I didn't receive news of a product that would relieve the discomfort they assumed, by now, I must have. Again, I almost wished I needed the "new breakthrough that rebuilds worn-down and damaged joints, makes your aches and pains simply go away and revolutionizes your life" " and all this for a whopping $250 less per year than whatever I'm paying for the products I now use. Incidentally, how do they know that, unless besides knowing my age, something on those bar codes at the supermarket or drug store discloses that information, too?
Now, I really trust my optometrist not to share my eye-glass prescription with anyone except the person who makes my glasses and myself, but I am baffled by the grossly large calculator, with numbers bigger than the end of my thumb, which I just received from a charitable organization who, I assume, wanted me to be able to read their plea as well as add up the generous contribution they assumed I would send them in gratitude for my new machine.
Oh, and there was nothing generic about this gift because my name, complete with my middle initial, was stamped on the front! That means, though the calculator I now use and can still see isn't much bigger than a business card, I can't even give this one away to someone who could benefit from the larger size. (Their gift, by the way, did not elicit one from me, since I hesitate to donate to any organization that spends a large percentage of their receipts on guilt-producing bribes and gimmicks in hopes of receiving donations in return.)
Please don't think I'm making light of anyone's pain or age-related limitations, because I'm not. I am eternally grateful for my good health, and equally aware that something could happen tomorrow to change my current condition.
Hardly a day goes by that I'm not also aware of how much better my health is than that of my parents a generation ago. My father suffered with a lengthy illness before he died 10 years younger than I am now, and the last 20 years of my mother's life were severely limited by Parkinson's disease. Also, both of my parents lost all their teeth before they were 40, while, thanks to an array of bridges, crowns, and metallic fillings, I still have most of my mine.
I suspect I will also be grateful for all these pain-relieving benefits and more, if and when that "decrepit age" moniker does apply to me. In the meantime, if anyone could use my jumbo-sized calculator, and doesn't mind the telltale monogram, give me a call.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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